In the fall of 2012, the FCC announced that they would be granting new Low Power FM radio sites to groups seeking to broadcast radio. These were the remaining spots available between the existing radio stations and would be able to reach between 3 and 5 miles from the point of transmission, so they would be able to reach a very local audience.
I heard about this on my favorite radio station KBCS or 91.3 FM and I got excited. This would be a chance to do something for our community. We could air interviews with Tacoma people who were doing things to strengthen our community. We could air local talent. We could do regular programs about the issues in Tacoma. We could offer different perspectives on international, national and local news than the mainstream media, but I had no idea where to start.
Then I heard that several other people were interested in this, too, in Tacoma, so a group was formed. In January of 2013, we held our first meeting and the excitement was palpable in the room. The other original members of this group were: Ross Reider, Alex Epstein, Michael Kagan, Julio Quan, Louisa Beal, Kerri Griffis and Terry Fuller as well as several others who have moved out of the area or gone on to concentrate on other issues. Over the next several months we hammered out what we envisioned for our fledgling station, Radio Tacoma. We all agreed that we wanted this to be a voice for our diverse community, to offer an arena for the broad ethnic and cultural minorities Tacoma holds and to advocate for progressive issues as well. We developed a vision statement and a mission statement.
Radio Tacoma wants to become a hub for our community to share information, education and to showcase songwriters, musicians, storytellers. We aspire to aid our community in knowing what is happening locally in the progressive arena and what people are working on so that everyone who wishes to can be an active participant in improving the quality of life in Tacoma.
Radio Tacoma is a low-power FM public access radio station developed to serve Tacoma, Washington, to provide our community with the opportunity for participatory democracy and to provide a voice for progressive groups, union members, minority groups and local talent that might otherwise not get heard.
There is also a wealth of talent in Tacoma, such as musicians, poets, and storytellers. We all agreed that we wanted to offer them the opportunity to air their material.
There was a monumental amount of work that we needed to accomplish in order to submit an application. Being a Federal agency, you can imagine what the FCC application looked like! It was very long, very technical and personally, my eyes crossed when I saw it. The FCC stipulated that the licenses would only be granted to those groups who had held a 501 C3 non-profit status for over 1 year and that sought to be educational or safety oriented in some way in their community. We were none of those things so we needed to find and partner with an entity that was. We ended up partnering with The Bridge United Methodist Church at 5601 S Puget Sound Avenue who are interested in supporting local peace, justice and spiritual issues in Tacoma and also with the Asian Pacific Cultural Center, the APCC, who want to broadcast music, stories and news in a variety of Pacific Rim languages for their members who may not understand English.
We also had to choose an engineer to work with who could help us with the issue of where we wanted to site our transmitter because whether we would even be considered a viable applicant by the FCC depended on where we sought to transmit. This is because the location on the radio dial had to not be interfering with any other existing radio station. Hiring an engineer meant we needed to have money! None of us had deep pockets but we did come up with the money and hired the well-respected Gray Frierson out of Portland Oregon to help us.
We logically decided that since we were partnering with the APCC and The Bridge and since The Bridge might let us use a room in their basement for a studio, and since we didn’t just want to preach to the same choir, we wanted a transmission site in the south end of Tacoma and that a 3 to 5 mile broadcast area would allow us to reach as far as Joint Base Ft. Lewis/ McCord. It was good that we decided that because in the process of filing the application we learned that Vashon Radio’s signal